Meet the Music Industry's Newly-Crowned Prom Queen
Molly Kate Kestner's success story is the kind most people only dream of. At 18, the Minnesota teen posted a video of herself singing a sad song she wrote herself; days letter, it had a million views and the attention of Good Morning America. So she signed a record deal, moved to LA, and started dropping Fader-approved tracks. The latest is "Prom Queen," an edgy anthem that feels especially appropriate right about now, as prom night snaps continue to dominate Instagram.
Ahead of her first-ever tour, we talked to the 21-year-old singer and songwriter about getting internet famous, growing up in a small town, and aspiring to be like Miley.
You're from a small town in Minnesota. LA's your new home. How's it treating you?
I moved out here just over a year ago, and it’s been a culture shock. Even though I had to leave everything and everyone back home, as soon as I came out here, opportunities kept popping up. Relationships were formed and I started writing the best songs I’ve ever written.
What did your friends and family at home think? That you were crazy?
Everyone was like, “You’re going to get eaten alive out there.” But after they could see that I was flourishing and finding a community and growing as a writer, they came around to it eventually. It's something that’s common when you grow up in a small town, let alone a small town in the Midwest. Most of the people I graduated with are still in Minnesota. My family’s still in Minnesota, but I definitely feel like coming to LA was the right move.
We have to agree. Were you the kind of kid who always dreamed of Hollywood?
When I was in middle school dreaming about being the next Hannah Montana, I told my mom I wanted to move to California. She said, “OK, sure, give it time. You don’t really want to do that.”
And look at you now! What was it like when your video first went viral?
It was by far the most overwhelming thing that has ever happened in my life. It was surreal. It was so incredible, but I was so young. It was extremely overwhelming because I was right at the beginning of thinking that maybe I wanted to be a songwriter, and suddenly I had to make a choice of whether to go that direction or not. I remember after I signed the record deal, I thought, “What if that’s the best song I’ll ever write?” I learned that you kind of have to let go all of that fear and insecurity and trust that as long as you’re working hard and doing what you can to grow personally, there’s going to be more opportunities ahead of you than behind you.
We can't stop listening to "Prom Queen," and we can't help but wonder: Were you prom queen?
We always look at the outside—how beautiful someone is, how popular they are, how many followers they have on Instagram, and we assume that they have it all together. But if you can look past their labels and identities, [you realize] you wouldn't wish for other people's lives. I wasn't prom queen. After "His Daughter" happened, I remember feeling like, "I'm getting all this praise, I'm this 'sweetheart from the Midwest'," but at the same time, I was dealing with personal stuff and just not happy. I felt like I couldn't show that to anyone because it just wasn't what people expected of me.
Watch Molly Kate's new music video for "Prom Queen," and catch her on tour this spring.